Joint venture awarded rail franchise

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Bexhill commuters are on track to improved journeys after the Government announced that it had awarded the local rail service franchise to joint venture Govia.

The Department for Transport (DfT) awarded Govia (Go-Ahead 65 per cent, Keolis 35 per cent joint venture) the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) the franchise on May 23.

This is the largest rail franchise in the UK in terms of passenger numbers, trains, revenue, and staff. The seven year management contract, starting in September 2014, which replaces the Thameslink and Great Northern franchise (operated as First Capital Connect, FCC) will encompass the Southern and Gatwick Express routes from July 2015 and include a small number of services and stations currently operated by Southeastern which will transfer in December 2014.

Govia runs the current Southern franchise on the East Coastway and Marshlink routes through Bexhill, and under the new Thameslink Southern Great Northern franchise will also progressively assume control of suburban services north of the Thames. The existing Southern branding will remain.

David Brown, Group Chief Executive The Go-Ahead Group, said he’s delighted the DfT chose them to operate this “important and complex franchise” and to “play an instrumental role in delivering the benefits of the Government’s £6 billion Thameslink Programme”, which includes a fleet of new trains and better connections, adding: “This will be the UK’s busiest franchise and we will be introducing 50 per cent more capacity into central London during peak times, with 26 per cent more morning peak carriages providing 10,000 additional seats.”

The new franchise is being let as a management contract where ticket revenues are passed directly to the Government rather than retained by Govia, due to the complexity and scale of the planned changes to services and infrastructure. Govia say they are committed to delivering these changes and minimising their impacts on customers.

Bexhill Rail Action Group (BRAG) said it welcomes the announcement that Govia has been selected to run local rail services for a further seven years. BRAG Chairman Hugh Sharp, said: “This announcement means that our local rail services will continue to be run by a team which is familiar with the problems of running services on over-crowded lines into London. BRAG has developed a strong relationship with Southern Rail. This has ensured that local concerns are promptly investigated - though inevitably we can’t always achieve instant changes. So we welcome the Government’s decision.

“BRAG will continue pressing for improved services and better facilities. We have already raised the case for installing ticket gates at Bexhill Station to prevent unauthorised use of our already crowded trains.

“We are awaiting details as to what improvements will be made to our local rail services in their winning bid. BRAG and the other rail user groups in East Sussex made detailed submissions to the DfT as part of this process. Our list included improved journey times on the route to London through an end to attachment and division of trains at Haywards Heath, as well as more seats on local services between Brighton and Ashford.”

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